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Children in focus (I)

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Product Description

By Lawrie Moloney

Published: 2003
Pages: 144 (PDF version)


The aim of 'Children in Focus' project has been to bring together the best research and practices available for the purpose of supporting children and families through periods of transition, especially when those periods are associated with high levels of conflict. Through this ongoing project, the Commonwealth and the Family Court have recognized that children's needs are paramount in matters of family conflict.

This Special Issue focuses on separation and divorce and the multitude of transitional events that have the potential to enrich or destabilise the lives of children in families, and specifically on material generated from the 'Children In Focus' program.

Why focus on children now?

This edition of the Journal begins with a response to the obvious but not so easily answered question, 'Why is there a need to focus on children at this point in time?' It takes the form of an imagined dialogue between one of our modern day troubadours, the Australian taxi driver, and a more conventional 'expert' .The article by Webb and Moloney that follows, offers an interesting insight into how policy is currently being developed within a family services branch of a Department (Attorney-General) better known for its legal expertise than for its understanding of family dynamics. It is an encouraging and ongoing story of how 'Canberra bureaucrats' have been willing to identify key areas of need for children and support programs aimed at addressing them better.

The next two papers, by Joan Kelly, provide an extremely valuable synopsis of thirty years of dedicated work as a researcher, evaluator, mediator, and clinician. In the first of these pieces, Kelly encapsulates a great deal of what we know about how family conflict - an almost inevitable aspect of separation, divorce, and family reformation - becomes entrenched conflict. Conflict between parents places children at risk, but the risk is minimised if the conflict is productive. Children can learn that conflict, an inevitable part of life, need not be feared. Kelly's summary of the clinical and research-based knowledge of how conflict processes become stuck, to the detriment of children, is an extremely important contribution to the field. Amongst other things, the paper opens up a coherent discussion on the place of mental illness and the often difficult to pin down (but highly significant) individual personality problems that frequently accompany enduring conflict.

McIntosh reviews the evidence that it is the conflict-saturated processes, rather than the structural aspects of separation and family transition, which impact so significantly on children's wellbeing. Like Kelly, McIntosh weaves case material into her research-based review in ways that make for compelling reading. Her aim is to take the reader 'beyond the wishful myths of resilience' to look more carefully at the impact of destructive rounds of unresolved conflict on cognitive and emotional development and on self-identity.

Many of the continually problematic aspects of what we term 'family law' are of course contained within the legal processes themselves. Reference to this is made in the articles by Moloney and Fisher, Webb and Moloney, and by Kelly. Fisher and Pullen conclude this 'Children in Focus' edition of the Journal with a thoughtful and fuller analysis of this most vexed of topics. The article deals with the ongoing tension between the 'Best Interests of the Child' principle and the structural limitations of the adversarial system.

This Special Issue is designed to stimulate and embolden readers to join in the debates and discussions on children in conflict and as such is important reading for academics, researchers, administrators, mediators, lawyers and clinicians working with children and conflict.

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